Two Social Work Students Awarded NASW-NC Equity and Inclusion Student Award

Every year, the National Association of Social Workers North Carolina Chapter (NASW-NC) provides a monetary award and a membership to undergraduate and graduate social work students enrolled in a Council of Social Work Education accredited social work program in North Carolina. UNCW Bachelor of Social Work students Marisa Tatum and Nakyah McNeal are among this year’s recipients.

Marisa TatumMarisa Tatum’s application submission was a last-minute decision. Tatum explains, “I thought that it sounded really good, but I didn’t know if this award would really apply to me.” However, she was soon encouraged by her academic instructor to throw her name in the ring. “I'm very glad I did apply but I was still surprised by the result,” she said.

Tatum says that a primary factor in applying for the award was her classroom experiences at UNCW as an African American woman. “I love UNCW and the social work program but, UNCW definitely has some work to do with diversity and inclusion. That feeling that I am not supposed to be somewhere, like it’s not a space for me, kind of empowers me. It makes me want to produce more spaces that are inclusive so that when clients come in that look like me, they feel welcomed and at home.”

Tatum plans to use the monetary award to fuel her continued research into the social justice issue of ageism. She dedicated the past two semesters on studying this issue and believes it’s not getting the attention it deserves.

Nakyah McNealNakyah McNeal is currently the activity chair for the Student Social Work Organization but she wasn’t always a social work major. McNeal switched to the social work program from her previous psychology major because she loved the idea of “building rapport with people, getting to know them, and advocating for people. These things stuck out to me and that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I knew that this was the field that I wanted to end up in after I graduated,” she said.

McNeal discovered the student award after following a NASW Facebook group. “I had not officially been a member or anything, but I saw that they put things out about different scholarships and other things that they're giving out when I saw this award for equity and inclusion and I thought ‘why not?’”

McNeal has plans to continue her journey in the public school system after receiving her bachelor’s degree. “I have always had a passion for helping students of color with struggles such as getting ready to go to college and the difficulties of that first transition year, especially in these different times and spaces,” she said. “I’m just super, super grateful, I just love the social work program so much and I’m so excited to see what the future holds.”